Master of Science: Suprastudio vs. Penn

Dear Archinect, 


I have currently been accepted to numerous MS programs and narrowed down my selection to UCLA's suprastudio and Penn. Fortunately, I have received scholarships from both. It is my belief that postgraduate studies should be research-oriented and definitely not a continuation of an M.Arch. Nevertheless, rankings are somewhat important to me  as well as the 'ivy' status. (I just don't know if this is not something to be overly concerned over. I turned down Colombia and they are a higher ranked school). 


As for my goals, I wish to teach and potentially work for an interdisciplinary firm with emerging technology. Furthermore, I wish to pursue a specific digitally-oriented research course of action that will allow me to gain specific skills (almost like a trade school) as opposed to learning 'a little of a lot'. (Essentially the M.Arch model). I am concerned about Penn because the MS students join with the M.ARch students after the first semester and take electives. On the other hand, I am concerned about the Suprastudio because they are not ranked. Penn is obviously ranked very highly. 


At the end of the day, I have no idea why UCLA is ranked so low. I went there for a summer and it was amazing and they have such an amazing faculty. Even so, I know there is nothing like the suprastudio in the states at this time. Both schools, I think, will yield good opportunities, but I am not sure. 


Thank you in advance. 

Apr 24, 16 9:58 pm

UCLA is ranked low cause not all of its graduate programs are good. They gave all of their attention creating Suprastudio. It is their jewel. That is why they recruited all those starchitects. How much did Upenn vs UCLA did? I turned down Columbia too as I was told that they have 120 people at their MSAAD. I turned down Thom Mayne's Suprastudio as this year theme had a more urban design approach. I would say choose the cheapest and the one program that shows you they want you the most. That you are really significant for them. I decided to go to Berkeley as they have a class of 10 people and their overall approach towards me was the best. Even better than GSD and Yale. I would say do not judge a school by the rankings. At least that is what I did when I ultimately made my final decision on 10th April.

Apr 25, 16 10:30 am

Hi johnnyutah05, I am a current student of MSArch at Penn. I can give you some detail about the program. Its two mandatory courses are pure history and theory courses. You can take other elective courses from any dept. or from any school based on your interest (not only with M.Arch, not after the first term as you mentioned). But your advisor will suggest you to take reading based (history, theory, critical thinking etc) courses not design oriented. This program will enrich your theoretical background and prepare you for future teaching or research career. Based on your goal, I think I will suggest you to explore more about the courses Penn offer in your interested topics and also talk with Prof Leatherbarrow.

I did my B.Arch and M.Arch before and I am also in teaching profession. This MS program was a wonderful opportunity for me to take courses from different schools as my research interest is in Landscape Urbanism. I took independent study with professors I always admired, who are working in the same field. I also got the opportunity to get into Graduate certificate for Landscape Studies. So the thing is you have the flexibility to craft your program.

On the other hand, SupraStudio is so different in approach, more design research oriented, very reputed, need not to be evaluated according UCLA ranking. Based on your goal as you have specified, i think Suprastudio will be more appropriate for you. My suggestion will be to explore more before finalizing Penn. All the Best.

Apr 25, 16 11:10 am

Hey Labib!! It’s great to meet you here. I am planning on going to MS in UPenn. Can you please help me with more information about the program? How often do you meet with your faculty for directed research? Is it a one on one meeting? Do you always get your first choice of faculty? How many hours do you spend with them per week?


Thank you so much!!


@labib I appreciate the insight about Penn. I visited there and loved it, I just don't know if the elective route is the way I want to go. Nevertheless, the Ivy status holds a lot of weight in my mind, but the fact that the program is 1.5 years is not optimal. These other MS programs are condensed and Penn gives the students an extra summer after the first two semesters. I have actually reached out to Michigan again. I turned them down, but they have a great research-oriented trajectory. 

Finally, I love the suprastudio. I chose to go with Guvenc Ozel, but on the opposite end of Penn, it seems to be almost too interdisciplinary as I won't be designing any typical architectural spaces; but, rather interacting with emerging technology. 

@ international I agree about going with the most scholarship and interest. Both Penn and UCLA have offered my comparable scholarships, but the fact that UCLA is a condensed program as opposed to Penn's 1.5 years, it will end up being cheaper. 

I would like to teach robotics and Penn is implementing them this year, but I hear it takes around a year or longer to figure out how they fit in a program properly. But to me, it is Ivy vs. a unique program. There is certainly nothing like Suprastudio out there. But an Ivy holds weight with employers by nature. Suprastudio has all of the tech company partnerships though. Ah decisions....

Apr 25, 16 2:49 pm

I would say that the reason UCLA is ranked lower, but not much its ranked 15th, is because of the school having really small class sizes.  And the amount of alumni represented out in the field is considerably less than that of larger schools like PENN, Columbia , GSD, these schools have huge class sizes and therefore more alumni.   But the rankings are nonsense anyways because Princeton was ranked 13th last year and Princeton is considered one of the best and hardest schools to get into.  They have a really small class size, similar to that of UCLA. 

UCLA has a really good M.arch 1 program, and most schools benchmark programs are the M.arch 1 program.  The other programs such as the M.sadd at Columbia and Suprastuido are a whole other beast, they typically consist of international students and spend less time at a school.  But at UCLA its a very different program for suprastudio where the Faculty always engage in a different topic and industry partner every year. Its a cutting edge program where new tech is always used, and explored with the R&D from the industry partners. They have nice equipment too.  I dont know much about Penn but I doubt their name as an Ivy means much compared to the other IVY names, just to be real. If your just chasing a name brand school Penn would not be the one to consider. 

Apr 25, 16 6:38 pm

johnnyutah05 how much did UCLA offer you? Valerie Leblond told me that final decision should have been made by 15th April. How did you manage to "avoid" this deadline ?

Apr 25, 16 10:01 pm

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